EPN’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day/Month

The news from Mexico has certainly taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.  While not so popular at home, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has been a darling in international circles for his willingness to take on controversial reform, especially in the case of privatizing Pemex.  Media headlines tended to be dominated by his bold reforms and the optimistic future of Mexico.

This week, however, I saw my first “Mexico as a failed state” headline in a couple of years and it’s not hard to see why.  Here’s a sampling of some horrible news coming out of Mexico right now:

Mass Graves Dot Hillsides Around Iguala as Search for Missing Students Continues

Mexican Military Executed at Least 12, Federal Panel Says

Criminals Turn to Metal Theft as Mexico Underworld Fragments

US Police Corrupted by Mexico’s Cartels Along Border


No wonder we are seeing protests that look like this:


Whatever happened to the 22nd amendment?

People, sometimes it seems to me like the Shrub is still in the Oval. Wars going badly in Afghanistan and Iraq? Check. Massive privacy violations by the NSA? Check. Gitmo open for business? Check.

And now, apparently, we may be re-affirming the Bush administration’s twisted logic on the geographic specificity of our commitment not to torture?

Why do we even have elections at all up in here?

Crime and Impunity in Mexico

Given the horrible news coming out of Mexico these days, this Economist article on crime and governance in Mexico is well-timed.  I think N. Parish Flannery (@LatAmLENS) summed it up best when he tweeted, “I think the Mexican version of Crime and Punishment is just Crime and …”

Here is the Economist graph showing both a rise in crime in recent years coupled with an incredible amount of impunity.


Perhaps the gruesome discovery of mass grave after mass grave in Guerrero, none of which seem to hold the missing students, will represent a turning point in this trajectory.

“I got sunshine on a cloudy day”

The BBC recently reported Chinese President Xi Jinping’s disturbing comments about art to a conference in Beijing of “authors, actors, scriptwriters and dancers.” While the Communists have always kept artists on a strict, “socialist” leash, in recent years Chinese artists have increasingly pushed the boundaries of what the state will allow in artistic expression.

Now the President has made it clear what he considers art to be, and not surprisingly there is no overlap between what his and my definition.  I’m sure much of the audience felt the same.  Here are some of his comments:

“He told artists, authors and actors that their work should present socialist values and not carry the “stench of money”.

Fine art works should be like sunshine from blue sky and breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles.

Works of art should present patriotism as the main theme and foster “correct” viewpoints of history, nationality and culture, as well as strengthen pride in being Chinese.

Yikes, this sounds like some terrible art.

Latin America: We’re first in machismo!

NPR has a interesting piece about a Gallup poll about respect for women around the world.  The poll finds that “for the second consecutive year, a wide survey found people in Latin America are the least likely to say they live in countries where women are treated with respect and dignity, ranking below the Middle East and North Africa.” While the results are subjective, since they are based on peoples’ opinions, it is still shocking to see Latin America score so low.

In surveys across 22 Latin American countries, Gallup found that “a median of 35 percent of adults said their women are treated [with respect] — about half as high as percentages in any other region of the world.”  Yikes!  Here are the median responses for other regions:  Asia (76%), Europe (72%), Sub-Saharan Africa (67%), Middle East and North Africa (65%). (For the US the percentage was 77).

In the Latin American region, only Ecuador had more than 60% of the respondents saying that women are treated with respect. As you can see from the table below, in Peru and Colombia, only 20% responded in that way.  The article notes one other interesting phenomena: the disparity between what women and men report on the survey:

“The widest gap was in Jamaica, where men were more than twice as likely to say women were respected (41 percent to 19 percent). Argentina had the second-largest gap (50 percent to 36 percent).”

It’s probably going to be very hard to make progress if men don’t even see that there is a problem to solve!

Do you believe women in this country are treated with respect and dignity?

Ecuador 63
Uruguay 57
Venezuela 54
Mexico 54
Panama 51
Suriname 47
Costa Rica 45
Argentina 43
Nicaragua 42
Chile 38
Haiti 37
El Salvador 32
Honduras 31
Dominican Republic 30
Jamaica 30
Bolivia 28
Paraguay 27
Brazil 27
Guatemala 27
Trinidad & Tobago 25
Colombia 20
Peru 20

Peak Modi?

You may have missed it over the weekend, but I’m getting out in front and calling Peak Modi as of Saturday:


Mr. Modi appears to be a bit of a control freak:

He’s introduced a Biometric Attendance System to monitor the comings and goings of some of India’s despised Babus (bureaucrats). You can see it in action here:  attendance.gov.in

He also has arranged to have “fitted the vehicles of party members campaigning for state legislative elections with GPS units, gathering real-time evidence that they are, in fact, on the trail and not lingering in hotel lounges.”

Too bad they didn’t have this kind of equipment in Gujarat in 2002!!

Fighting Obesity and Illiteracy in one Dumb Program

While some school districts are phasing out recess (a bad idea in my opinion), others are now trying to combine reading and exercise to improve skills and reduce obesity.

A few elementary schools have tried out standing desks, while 31 others have moved to combining study time with exercise bikes.  This article touts some positive results from the program but I’d really like to see more about the sample size and methodology because my personal experience makes me very skeptical.  Having tried frequently as an undergrad to read while using an exercise bike, I can tell you that at least for me, one or the other had to give.  Most of the time I didn’t get much from the reading (if anything), and it compromised how much exercise I got as well.  The article inadvertently recognizes the latter problem, noting that “On exercise bikes, students are able to pace themselves and exert themselves at their own level–without anyone noticing when they slow down or take a break.”

I appreciate that educators are trying to be innovative and creative, but this really strikes me as one of the dumber reforms out there.  Next thing we know, the schools will dump the program and the exercise bikes will be exported to Sub-Saharan Africa to improve student reading skills there.

Here are some awesome photos: